"Annandale ground has strategic value for all Army operations"

The Army's Western Command declared on Monday that it had never issued the statement that appeared in a section of the press on Sunday and denied any conflict with the Himachal Pradesh government over the Annandale ground.

Addressing select journalists here, Brigadier A.K. Sharma of the Western Command said the ground had strategic value for all Army operations. The Army had been in possession of the ground since World War II, and from here, it was regularly carrying out exercises and forward operations.

The ground, Brigadier Sharma said, was used for helicopters to land and take off for rescue and relief operations at times of natural disasters in the forward areas of the region. There was no question of using an alternative site, as suggested by the government, since the location was perfect from the security perspective.

‘Vested interests'

The CPI(M) and the DYFI reiterated their charge that the BJP and the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association had vested interests in seeking to take over the ground. They alleged that the government had become a facilitator for the Cricket Association, as it was being headed by Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal's son Anurag Thakur. According to them, Mr. Thakur's campaign to get hold of the ground for building a stadium had the backing of a land mafia that had bought more than 25 bighas around the site.

Their apprehension was that if this ground was also made into a stadium, like the one at Dharamsala, no individuals or sportsmen would be allowed to play or practise there. The result would be a concrete jungle on the lone green meadow in the congested town, they pointed out.

They suggested that the ground be made available to ordinary citizens for their social and cultural needs, and for conducting various games and sports. The DYFI has been running a campaign against the acquisition of the ground by the Cricket Association.